STUDENTS from Berry College set a campus record with the largest numbers participating in America’s “Make a Difference Day”.
Twenty years ago, on a sparkling spring day in Rome, Georgia, I visited Berry’s acres of mountains, forests, fields, lakes, deer, swans and geese.
Berry challenges students “to devote their learning to community and civic betterment.” Student timetables have “Habitat for Humanity Build”, or “Multiple Sclerosis Walk” alongside lectures. I
t’s a direct legacy of the amazing woman who founded it, Martha Berry.
Born in 1865, she lived almost all her life on Oak Hill, the family’s farm. Martha shared her father’s Christian faith, and his compassion for the poorer families and tenant farmers.
She met three boys crossing the family property and discovered they didn’t go to school or Sunday school.
She began teaching them Bible stories in a small log cabin still on the campus today. The rest, as they say, is history.
Giving children the opportunity to succeed because of their gifts, not their income, became her life’s work. She gave all of Oak Hill to the school.
In building one of the world’s largest campuses, she attracted support from Andrew Carnegie, President Roosevelt, and Henry Ford. Legend has it that when she first approached Ford he, tired of being targeted for donations, gave her one small coin.
Martha’s personal motto was “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister” (it’s now the college motto). She thanked him, then bought and planted seeds with that coin.
One year later she returned to show him how much his one coin had earned.
Ford became a major benefactor. He built the beautiful English gothic buildings that still house students today. Martha – thank you for the inspiration.